I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
- Psalm 27:13-14
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
- Mark 9:35
To explain the verses, Psalm 27:14 is the verse my wife quoted most often, but when you add Psalm 27:13 and Mark 9:35, you get the essence of the woman I married.
The last episode ended with her about to meet a tall, dark, handsome young man… Forget it! My landlady was playing matchmaker and I was her first “victim.” I had only one date in high school. I dated a few as a freshman in college, and after my freshman year, I went steady with one girl who was still in high school, for about a year and a half. She broke it off, with little to no explanation as to what I did wrong. She just saw greener grass in the next pasture. After that I only dated young ladies once or twice, one professor’s daughter on 4-5 occasions. But my last year in undergraduate, I worked with the sponsors, ladies from each sorority providing a morale boost for the ROTC candidates. One young lady and I had fun together. She was a guard for the first all female ROTC color guard, as women were allowed to pursue a military commission for the first time. But during my last semester, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she dropped out of school. I kept up with her progress, as a friend. It was a necessity for all ROTC candidates to go to the Officer’s Ball, and I coaxed her into being my date. She stole the show that night, but a month later she refused to return my calls. I never found out if she had beaten the disease.
While Bill Cosby’s reputation has taken a nosedive in the past decade, he once said, “It took me thirty years to learn how to kiss a girl right…” He was talking about NOT eating animal reproductive organs, no matter how much of a delicacy they were. But in all my dating, I had not figured out the entire dating thing. Kissing a girl right was way down on the priority list. I had no idea how to hold hands right. In fact, one of the qualities that led to my wife falling in love was my stumbling and bumbling in trying to impress her and failing miserably. Thus, I guess I could say that I still do not know.
When I arrived in Texas, I asked every eligible lady at work and at the church. They were either spoken for or not interested. Since my brother’s only male offspring had died of infant crib death and his wife could not have children anymore, my mother was putting pressure on me, but I refused to go to the bars and clubs. I would probably find out that I was terrible at Texas line dancing and the girls would laugh at me. And having a young lady agree to go out with me only because she was drunk said more about my desperation than my ability to woo.
What I am saying is that after two months of moving to Texas, I decided to be a lifelong bachelor. Hang up a sign “Not Interested.”
The Night we Met and then the Dating Began
For a bit of dating background on my wife, I had mentioned that she had chaperoned dates in El Paso, TX. She finally had an unchaperoned date to the senior prom. She had a boyfriend at one time in the Air Force, on the rare days when a nurse that took pity on my wife took her call so that my wife could “have a life.” Since she rarely had a meal, this guy, from Camden, NJ, was about the sleeziest person at the Air Force Base. He knew that when the truck arrived to unload at the mess hall that it had ample things like steak, lobster tails, and other delicacies, but the enlisted never saw those things. They would be funneled off to the highest bidder or reserved for the officer’s mess. But when she went out with this friend, they just might go to the park, to the picnic area and have surf and turf, filet mignon and lobster tails on the grill. Do not tell anyone or the officer’s mess that was short a few might get angry. But with her hunger abated, she wondered why on earth she was dating this guy. He was a smooth talker and he could obtain anything, but she might be asked to give evidence in a tribunal at some point.
When she got out of the Air Force and she returned to Port Acres, TX, a suburb of Port Arthur, TX, she dated an electrical engineering student who was the son of one of her mother’s friends. He had designs on starting his own company rather than his date, so she became disinterested.
She had simply decided that there was absolutely no wholesome, educated, and reasonably articulate male to be had in Southeast, Texas. She had no problems going to bars, but with her girlfriends. The only guy that she halfway liked was this guy at work. He was married, thus safe. And they would joke around on the 3-11 shift. They were there in case an emergency surgery came up and if there were none, they would prep the inpatients for surgery the next day, mostly shave the area that was going to be cut while talking calmly to the patient about how great the surgeon was and the success rates and such. They could have talked about a puppy they saw in the window of the pet store, anything to keep the patient’s mind away from worrying about the next morning. My future wife loved the 3-11 shift. She could take a few classes at the university near by during the day on the GI Bill, and then the work that night was not as fast paced, until the emergency came in, and there was very little supervision and no top office management people looking over their shoulder. A totally different pace than what she had in the military during the Vietnam War.
But, back to her one male friend at work, his wife was my landlady. Without consulting anyone, including the two ladies that she suggested, she proposed that she had two ladies at her husband’s workplace that were eligible ladies. I could date one of the ladies right away, but the other one was on her way to San Antonio to the Texas Folklife Festival where she sang with her family every year.
Since I was a tenor in the church choir, a singing female person sounded more interesting. I forewent the bird in the hand, as the other lady was available immediately. I am glad that I did. The landlady had lied. The other lady had only separated from her husband, and her husband was the crazy jealous type. When that other lady wrecked my sports car a few months later when she took the passenger side panel off the door pulling out of a parking space, I simply asked her for her insurance numbers, and her estranged husband put out a death threat against me. For 2-3 months, I never got out of my car in the darkened parking lot of the apartment complex without my keys in my hand with one key between my fingers to cut while punching in case he was lurking nearby. I had passed my hand-to-hand combat training in the military. He may have heard about my military training, he never showed, and eventually got arrested in another county over some drunk and disorderly charge. Thus, a lady who would marry something like that might not be my first choice anyway.
That left me waiting for about three weeks. The Folklife Festival was the next weekend, and then she was on call the following weekend. I was not in a hurry, in that I had decided to be a lifelong bachelor anyway.
It turned out that she did not want to ever date a guy either. She was tired of the whole system. She refused to consider dating me the first 2-3 times he brought it up. It took the landlady’s husband promising to do some of the distasteful things that surgical techs had to do. I know that one of those tasks was to shave men’s private body parts for the next couple of months. That was one of the few things he would spare her from having to do for a couple of months. His bargaining with her was just drawing to a close when she was almost ready to say “Yes” but not quite yet.
Even so, when the big first meeting came up on a Friday night, I went to the landlady’s apartment, and she said that my date was at the far end of the apartment complex trying to calm down. I found my future wife smoking a cigarette and pacing. She had dressed casually as this first night, just to meet each other, was going to include tennis. Note: Since she had just gotten off work, working 3-11, this first meeting started near midnight.
I did not like the smoking, but I first saw her figure, which was very nice. As I got closer, she had a dark tan and she had painted her eyelids like cat eyes, accentuating her slight Asian look. In spite of her nervousness and reluctance, I liked her smile. Her entire life, regardless of how much pain she was in, she smiled for everyone to see.
She said something about smoking to calm down. She never talked about the PTSD from her military days or the constant anxious feelings that it left on her. She had started smoking while in the military to have a reason to take a break, when it was allowed between cases, and to calm down. Military cigarettes were inexpensive and the price for civilians was one reason she wanted to quit. I thought she was just nervous about meeting someone new. I had no idea that meeting new people gave her excitement. Meeting a potential date, however, was worse than a dozen root canals for her at that point.
I had not played tennis in about six months, and I was much more skilled than the other three put together, and I was not that good. The landlady and my date were playing against me and the landlady’s husband. It usually ended up that we lobbed the ball back and forth until we got tired, trying to get 3-4 volleys before someone missed. We never kept score and after we had all worked a full day, then played tennis for an hour, we piled into my landlady’s car to go for a 1:00am Jack-in-the-box hamburger, my first time visiting that chain. We swapped phone numbers and she got into her green Duster and drove away.
After the meeting, I was smitten. The first sight thing may not have been love, but I was interested in her. She was nice. She had a nice smile, and she seemed mature, a lot more mature than the college girls that I had dated. And she looked exotic. My future wife’s impression of me was, “Who wears torn polyester burgundy dress slacks to play tennis?” They were not torn. The outside seams were just coming unstitched, both legs from the cuff to the knee. It was the closest thing that I had to shorts, and I definitely could not wear them to work.
I called mid-afternoon the next day to set up the date and although the family had only one phone for her parents, four brothers, and three teen-aged sisters, I had called at the perfect time. One brother had gotten a job in Houston, her older brother was still in college, finishing up at Texas-Austin, and another brother was in an exclusive prelaw school in San Antonio. Her sisters were all out on dates or doing high school activities. We talked for about an hour. We set up a date for that next weekend. Since she had just had call the previous weekend, she would have two weekends with no call before her rotation came back. One of her sisters was a girl who cleaned tables at the restaurant attached to the hotel where I stayed until I moved into my apartment. That particular sister asked what kind of car I drove, but my future wife was not into cars. She was not impressed. She told her sister that she was so low to the ground that it was like riding a go-cart, a sports car of some sort. Her sister looked out the window when I picked her up for our second date and squealed her approval, a Datsun 260Z, gold. But that jumps ahead a little bit.
Note: Her fourth sister, the oldest of the other four girls, had gone to summer school and graduated a year early from high school. The pressure of taking over the chores that my wife had done for so many years got too much. Her boyfriend had joined the Air Force and was being shipped out to Okinawa. She married him and went with him. He left the Air Force upon his return and they lived with us until they found a place of their own as he went to college, but that was after we had married, and I was opening my home to a sister I had never met.
But that first phone call to set up the first date was really when it was love at first hearing. My wife had one of those voices that was made for radio, sultry but friendly. If her voice were a blanket, I would have wrapped myself in it and felt perfectly safe, warm, and loved. How did she make friends with everyone? The smile and the voice drew people in, the love kept them there. I was not that special. She loved everyone.
My wife often reminded me of something that I had said during that first phone call. She said that I said, “I have a hard time talking to women, but I could talk to you all day long.” I hardly remembered saying it, but I heard her repeat it often.
The First and Second Dates
I have written about our first date that next Saturday before. I took her to the restaurant where her sister worked, and we had a nice dinner. We talked. She suggested the river walk along the intercoastal waterway. We got there near sunset. We held hands and we talked. As we walked back to the car, now fully dark, she asked, “Do you want to do something totally crazy?” I asked what she meant by that. She said, “Let’s go to Galveston and walk on the beach below the sea wall. But we have to get bread first.” I was confused, but I said that sounded interesting, and a bit crazy.
We drove down the beach road. This was back before the hurricanes wiped out the beach road between Sabine Pass and the road to Winnie, Texas. We drove down to the tip of the Bolivar Peninsula, talking all the way, and then we waited for the next ferry. That was where the bread came in. We tore the bread and tossed it into the air and the seagulls ate it. The ferry took us to Galveston Island, and we drove up and down the sea wall. By this time, it was about midnight. She said, “Let’s play mini-golf.” It was about 1:00am when we got back in line for the next ferry. And we talked even more.
On the way up the beach road, she asked if I had ever gone fast in my sports car. I said no and I sped up to about 110 miles per hour (about 177kph). I think it was the fastest that I ever drove a car, but it was twice the posted speed. I saw a campfire in the distance, and I quickly slowed down. She softly giggled.
I think it was about the time we arrived in the ferry station on the way to Galveston that the subject of age came into the conversation. We had talked about our lives to that point. She had lived in multiple time zones around the world, and I had only lived in one. She had seen very little of the USA and I had visited over half the states by that point.
But age? That’s a dangerous subject. At first, we each guessed. I guessed her to be 21 at the most. She thought I was so mature that I had to be 25 or 26. But she was a few months short of 24 and I had just reached 22 a month or so before. She said that she would have to think about it before we dated again. She had not ever dated a younger guy. She did not know if that would work. I learned over the next few months that among her many anxieties (especially with undiagnosed PTSD) she was afraid of commitment, but that is next week’s topic. Her anxiety about date number two did not last long.
I was afraid that I had blown it with her parents, but she said that after years of fighting with her father, he had mellowed after his open-heart surgery. Then she said that she was “just like her Dad,” but she lived 12 years longer than he did, but both had been open-heart surgery survivors. At least for a while.
She turned to face me at her back door, expecting something. I leaned in for a kiss and missed, but I gave her lower lip a great kiss. She softly giggled.
During the next week, I called to ask her what her restrictions were on a call weekend. She surrendered to my charms, or the incessant phone calls, and she invited me the next Saturday to play Liverpool Rummy with her mother and whoever was there at the time. I first had to learn how to play, by playing and losing. I met her parents and a couple of her sisters. I met one of the brothers. We played cards most of the afternoon and laughed. The hospital never called. Her family was noisy and fun. Odd, I had never felt noisy was fun at all, but in their kitchen, I had more fun than I ever had in my mother’s kitchen back home.
It was after this meeting that her father pulled her aside and said, “This guy is a little slow (romantically), but he will pop the question. He has good character. Don’t screw up this time! It may be your last chance, and he might be your best chance.” She told me that often enough years later, and I think I have the words right.
The next weekend, I planned a grand cookout on the beach. I have told the story of digging a pit in the sand, blocking the wind using the car, and then trying to light the charcoal. Every time I had the charcoal lit, a gust of wind would blow out the flame. I was running out of lighter fluid and matches when my future wife said that she had seen those Southern skies before and we needed to go back to my apartment. I buried the charcoal, threw everything into the back of the car, and we drove back. We were the only ones on the road, just about dusk, and she asked for me to stop on the bridge over the intercoastal waterway. We counted fourteen funnel clouds along the horizon. The weatherman said the next day that there had been sixteen tornadoes in the area, and we had seen fourteen of them. We went back to my apartment and I cooked the burgers. We talked a lot more, and we laughed. It was the only time I ever saw my wife in a bikini. She was again stunned by my clothing, red and white striped swim trunks. After we were married, she asked if it was appropriate for a married woman to wear a bikini, and I gave her a screwed up face without saying anything, and she gave her bikinis away.
And what is next?
And next week, we will look at my tenacity at popping the question, never in a classic romantic setting, and her reluctance in saying anything, except to say she still wanted to go out the next weekend, always giving me another chance.
And to all this, I give praise and honor to God. Only He knew that the two of us would one day marry each other.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
I love this, Mark💕
LikeLiked by 1 person